How To Grow Peas
Peas are one of the best vegetables to start growing as the reward of eating raw freshly picked peas is magnificent and popular amongst all members of a family – even the youngest.
Yet growing peas can also be a little challenging: birds love them; they require support; germination can be hit and miss; and they require frequent watering at key periods to really produce a bumper crop.
There are many varieties of peas and they can be sown from February for an early summer crop. If planted in succession, for example every two weeks, it’s possible to enjoy peas throughout the summer.
I’ve found from experience that it is important to give peas a rich soil, protect from birds just after sowing and when the seedlings are small, and also to give plenty of water (my soil is very dry).
The picture above shows how I prepare the ground for peas. My allotment has a communal supply of compost and it comes in very useful for peas. I start preparing the seed bed by collecting two heaped wheelbarrow worths of compost. Peas will grow more vigorously in rich soil.
Peas are also very good for the soil (if after cropping you leave the roots of the plant to rot in the ground). Altogether this means that the legacy of peas is a very nutritious soil for your next crop.
Peas are loved by birds (and mice) especially when they are young seedlings, so I’ve always found it necessary to protect them. I’ve learnt from personal experience that it only takes one day to lose the whole crop to bird attack.
My method is simply, an ‘A’ frame using canes over which I drape a pea net that can be bought cheaply from a garden centre. If you look closely in the picture above you can see that I have prepared a shallow rectangular trench into which to sow the peas. I keep the trench about 6 inches or 15 centimetres away from the edge of the frame so that birds cannot reach through the net.
I like to sow the peas quite liberally in the soil. I’ve mentioned the risk from birds, but it’s also possible for peas to rot in the soil if the weather conditions are not ideal. I would also recommend using freshly bought seed each year as I’ve found this significantly improves the germination rate.
The picture below shows the end result of all the preparation work. My final tip is to secure the pea net with clothes pegs – an ideal, cheap and hassle free way of putting up a net. I also use bricks or large stones to secure the net along the bottom.
How To Grow Peas – Care
The freshly sown peas should germinate within three weeks in the spring, two weeks in the summer, provided that they are well protected from birds (who otherwise will eat them).
If they do not germinate, and in my experience this is quite common, it could be that the ground was too wet or cold.
My view is that peas do not keep that well after the packet has been opened, and I would recommend buying fresh seeds each year to maximise the chances of germination.
In the above picture it’s possible to see the space left between the edge of the net and the row of peas. I do this because some birds have long necks, and this will keep the majority of your seedlings out of harms way.
Left over bricks I find are a good way to ensure the netting stays tight along the row of plants. Birds at our allotment are particularly severe on young peas. When the plants are taller and have eventually reached up to the netting the birds seem to have lost interest.
With good luck the peas should really start to get going with the warmer spring weather. Along the way they do not need protection from the cold, but I find that I do need to pay attention to watering to ensure that the ground never dries out.
The photograph above shows the exciting time when the plants unfurl their flowers – meaning that the first pea pods are very close. This is also the time to really give the plants a good water.
My final tip is to try and keep the weeds under close control when the pea plants are small. When the plants have got to this size, peas tend to wrap themselves around anything – including weeds – making getting rid of unwelcome plants difficult.
The final stage of the process is the formation of the young pea pods. I know some people choose to pick the young pods at this stage, but I prefer to let the peas fully develop – it just requires a little more patience!
To ensure a really good crop it is important to keep on watering. Picking often also helps as this means that the energy of the plants goes into producing even more flowers and pods.
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